Baseball season lasts forever. A hot prospect during the first month or two of the year can find himself in the minor leagues by July. A starter who struggles in April can still win the Cy Young Award. That said, teams have played enough games at this stage to get a feel for what their seasons will look like. Let’s take a peek at a few squads who have unsustainable records and bettors should consider fading.
Los Angeles Angels
I’m selling the Angels in a big way. They weren’t expected to be good this year and are right around .500 early on. However, their -11 run differential is second-worst in the American League, and they have three victories when trailing after eight innings, a number that they can not possibly maintain. Their starters consistently fail to pitch deep into games, their defense is in the bottom third of baseball, and the bullpen is a big league best 5-1, despite having the 15th-best ERA (3.50). LA’s success is unlikely to continue.
The Reds possess the second-best record in the National League and are number two with a +15 run differential. That said, they have four starters on the disabled list, and the idea that they can keep up anything close to their 5-1 road mark is fool’s gold. A big part of Cincinnati’s success can be credited to their competition. Two of their four series have come against the worst two squads in the NL, Philadelphia and St. Louis. The top two hitters for the Reds this year are Zack Cozart (.432 with six extra-base hits) and Eugenio Suarez (.364 including three home runs). In over 600 big league games, the 31-year-old Cozart is a career .249 hitter and has averaged one extra-base hit every 3.2 games. In three Major League seasons prior to 2017, Suarez is under .260, with 38 homers in 341 games. They cannot be the best hitters on a winning team over the course of an entire season.
The Tigers bullpen is 2-1 and they are one of ten teams in the bigs to have one or zero losses from the pen this year. Those numbers are nice, except when you learn Detroit’s relievers have compiled a 6.64 ERA (28th in the league). It is hard to imagine that a bad bullpen won’t start costing the team games. Moreover, the offense is not making up for the the leaky pen. The Tigers are tied for 16th in runs scored, and are 15th in average. Young starters Daniel Norris, Michael Fulmer, and Matt Boyd, who have been very good thus far, are going to need to throw a lot of innings to keep Detroit in the mix.
Yes, the Rockies have the most wins in baseball. No, they aren’t that good. As a team, Colorado is batting .227 (23rd in the league) and has scored just 44 runs (22nd). The pitching is nothing to get excited about with a 3.99 ERA (15th). So what is going on? The signing of Greg Holland to pitch the ninth inning is looking smart. Holland missed all of last year with an injury, but he’s seven-for-seven in save chances. Eighth-inning man Adam Ottavino has a 1.50 ERA, and reliever Mike Dunn has appeared in 10 games without yielding a run.
In sum, the bullpen has been phenomenal. The question now is how frequently will they be able to get to those guys with the lead going forward? As noted, the hitting isn’t great, and top starter Jon Gray is hurt. Youngster Antonio Senzatela has been very good in three starts, and Tyler Chatwood is solid, but Kyle Freeland and Tyler Anderson have struggled. Neither the hitting nor the pitching inspire confidence that the team can continue to get to sixth inning with the lead.
Photo Credit: NewJack984 [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.